What does my massage therapist, the spiritual community of a famous guru and Carl Jung have in common?
Well… The short answer is that they all got it wrong! Many people I talk with have this very specific notion. Last week, I was participating in an exquisite meditation event. In events like this, there are usual topics that circulate, ranging from ayahuasca to sex. In complete resonance with this specific notion, which is not new at all, a young lady expressed the view that dogs are “always living in the now” and that we humans have somehow missed the mark, hence living in a lesser spiritual state.
Of course this reminded of my massage therapist. In one of our conversations I mentioned my then one and a half year old daughter and she exclaimed: “They live in a perfect state! We should learn from them”. Well, I said, I don’t think so…
Last summer, I have spent two weeks in a “spiritual” community of a well-known, now deceased, guru. They seemed to believe that we should get “back to the roots”, “back to the body”. Pre-rational hedonism and impulsiveness was “celebrated” as being spiritual. Same goes for unnecessary nudity and the encouragement of primitive behaviour. They seemed to believe that “getting back to the body” was an absolute prerequisite for Enlightenment. They were neither right, nor Enlightened. This view has also been shared by academics and anthropologists idealizing models of primitive cultures, suggesting that they lived in an elevated state that the modern society lacks. Of course, these notions are very romanticised and if one looks at the historical facts, they will see that things were not exactly that way.
So, where does Carl Jung come into play? He like the rest of the people mentioned above, believed that when we are born, we are in some kind of elevated/ Enlightened state and then we lose that and then have to get back to it.
Now the key word here is the word “back” and that implies a regression, instead of a progression. But, isn’t evolution meant to be progressive? How is this possible?
Bear with me. The genius philosopher, Ken Wilber, has addressed this matter extensively in his books “Sex Ecology Spirituality” and “Eye to Eye”. He developed to notion of “pre/trans fallacy”. This is of tremendous importance, since it restitutes the distorted notion, which lead to two different spiritual and psychological worldviews.
Perhaps the only way to get this right is by putting things in a developmental timeline. There are at least three distinct phases of psychological development. That is the stage before ego is developed, the state where the ego is developed and the stage that comes after ego is developed. These states can be characterized as pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational or pre-personal, personal, and trans-personal. The key developmental point here is the formation of the ego, or the rational mind.
States, both before and after the formation of ego, are irrational. However, although they are irrational, thus similar, that doesn’t mean they are the same. For this reason, If one does not have the model of developmental psychology in mind, it is extremely easy to confuse “pre” and “trans” states.
Have a look at a newborn. It is obvious and scientifically accepted that the newborn lives in a state of fusion with the world. The baby cannot differentiate from the mother, or the surrounding environment, living in a state of no boundaries, unable to tell where its sense of self ends and where the rest begins. As the time goes by, the process of differentiation begins and a solid sense of “I” is created.
How does Spirit come into play?
This “I” has been called many names like “Primordial Sin”, “cause of ignorance” etc. This “I” is created because of our interaction in the dualistic world. It is, though, a necessary formation, or else the interaction wouldn’t have been possible. It is a vehicle of evolution.
One can relate to the Christian myth of the garden of Eden, where eating from the Tree of Knowledge, made Adam and Eve capable of perceiving duality, hence they got “banned” by the unity of “Paradise”. If one takes this paradigm as true, then this means that by the formation of “I”, Man went to a lesser state that and that effort and strife is needed to get back to the original glory. Again this does not sit right with the evolutionary view.
The story of Eden, as told by the Gnostics, has a different connotation. Anyone seen “The Matrix”? Adam and Even were trapped in a false paradise, like in a dream state, and eating the fruit made them wake up from the false dream. This indicates an evolution from a pre-egoic irrational fusion to an evolutionary step toward the formation of rational intellect. It is only through this necessary evolutionary process that they can get Enlightened, re-integrating themselves to what Gnostics call Pleroma.
The process goes from a) pre-rational undifferentiated fusion, to b) differentiation, to c) post differentiated integration. “C” transcends and includes “b” but “a” doesn’t. This is the only way this can happen and regressing from “b” to “a” is not spiritual at all.
Pre states do not have access to rational states. So pre-rational doesn’t transcend and include rational thinking, like the trans states do. There’s no awareness there.
Trans-rational transcends and includes pre-rational and is also perfectly aware of rational thinking.
A twofold fallacy
By now, the evolutionary process should be quite clear. Here are the two distorted ways that people have been interpreting it, since a long time ago. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were also victims of this distortion.
These two distorted ways, or views, as Ken Wilber calls them, are the elevationistic and the reductionistic.
Let’s have a look at the elevationistic view first. This is the view taken by Carl Jung and by the majority of the New Age spiritual movements. The problem with this view is that pre-rational states are being interpreted as trans-rational, hence they elevate them to a place in the evolutionary process that they don’t belong. In their worldview there is just personal and transpersonal. This view has also been taken by orthodox religion, where one starts from a heavenly state and because of some sort or error, one ends up in the prison of rationality and ego, indicating a loss and a fall.
So, an infant or a dog, are not in a higher evolutionary state that a human, nonmatter how unevolved the human might be. Their states might seem mystical, because they are irrational, but they are not! Ideas of returning to an infantile state, should be abandoned by those who seek to develop psychologically and/or spiritually.
Now is the turn of the reductionistic view. This is the view taken by Sigmund Freud and the orthodox science. The problem with this view is that trans-rational states can be reduced to pre-rational, hence a gross reductionism occurs. Trans-rational mystical experiences are dismissed as pre-rational fantasy. In their worldview there is just personal and pre-personal. One starts in a pre-personal state and evolves to a personal/rational state, that signifies the end of the human evolutionary process. This is a gross reductionism leaving out of the table a huge potential of human development. All mystical experiences are reduced to pre-rational fantasies and are considered problematic.
Both of them are half-right
None of them recognize the full journey from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal. The reductionistc view is right in the sense that there is an evolution from prerational to transrational but it is wrong that they believe that this is the end of human potential.
The elevationistic view is right in the sense that there is much more than the ego-rational mode of being, but wrong in the sense that the stage of forming the ego is a lesser stage and one needs to get back to the pre-egoic stage.
This has been an overview of the Pre/Trans fallacy. It should give to the reader enough insight into the matter and “heal” some distorted view about spirituality which are old, appear again and again and are not helpful, in any way, to the evolution of humanity. By all means, if you feel like it, read the above-mentioned books by Ken Wilber.